Bulgaria’s April 4 2021 parliamentary elections headed into the final stretch ahead of polls closing at 8pm, with problems with voting machines reported from various places, allegations of vote-buying, websites penalised for illegally publishing exit polls and indications on strong interest in voting abroad.
Early indications were that, amid the Covid-19 crisis, voter turnout would end up being slightly lower than at Bulgaria’s previous parliamentary elections in 2017.
At its 6pm briefing, the Central Election Commission said that voter turnout by 5pm was 39.99 per cent. By that time in 2017, voter turnout was 42.74 per cent.
Among other effects of the Covid-19 crisis were that about 15 000 voters in Bulgaria who entered quarantine after April 1 were not allowed to go to polling stations.
Alleged incidents of vote-buying included a report that a precinct election official had been arrested in Slayanovo in the Pleven district following a number of complaints that the official was involved in vote-buying.
Media reports said that in Rousse, the price per vote was 30 leva (about 15 euro), in Stara Zagora 50 leva and in Devnya, the highest at 100 leva.
In a statement on April 4, the Prosecutor’s Office said that a person, not otherwise identified in the statement, had been sentenced in fast-track proceedings to 11 months in prison, suspended for three years, along with a bar from holding elected office for two years.
The statement said that in the course of the election campaign, up to April 4, a total of 445 investigations and 33 pre-trial proceedings had been initiated.
Eleven people had been charged, of whom three had been remanded in custody.
On election day, two fast-track pre-trial proceedings had been lodged against people attempting to vote using false documents.
Bulgarian National Radio said that Bulgarians in countries in Western Europe were voting en masse.
Reports said that in London, the queue to vote was two kilometres long.
However, because of Brexit, the UK is now a non-EU country. Bulgarian law places limits on the number of polling stations that may be opened in a non-EU country, meaning that in Britain there are now fewer than there were in 2017.
The Central Election Commission received complaints about websites posting what those media said were exit polls.
Some posted exit poll results, using coded language, directly on their own websites, while others skirted the law by posting on social networks, over which the CEC does not have jurisdiction.
By just before 6pm, the CEC had announced penalties for two after completing its investigations into them, the Pik and Blitz websites.
Procedurally, once the CEC establishes that electoral law has been broken in this way, it refers the matter to the regional governor to decide on the size of the fine. For a first offence, the fine is 2000 to 5000 leva, and for second and further offences, from 5000 to 10 000 leva.
As to the election results, while exit poll results by accredited agencies will be announced on television just after 8pm, the CEC has until April 8 to post official results and until April 11 to declare the names of those elected as MPs.
The Sofia’s Globe factfile about Bulgaria’s April 2021 National Assembly elections may be found at this link.
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